Oklahoma Man Arrested for Making Racial Slurs at Black Store Employee Over Drink Refill, Police Say

A man was arrested in Ponca City, Oklahoma, last week after yelling racial slurs and using other profanities during an interaction with a Black store manager.

The incident took place one week earlier inside Casey's General Store. It reportedly ensued over the establishment's new drink refill restrictions, which are similar to policies effected at most food service businesses accepting customers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The man, 58-year-old Ponca City resident William Welch, started to yell at the manager when she said he could not refill a personal cup himself, Oklahoma news outlet KFOR reported. The outlet's report credited Ponca City Police Department officials for the information.

Stacy Orange, the Casey's General Store shift manager who notified Welch of the refill policy, recounted the incident to KFOR on Friday.

"I looked at my cashier because I saw the cup sitting there. I said, remember we can't have refill mugs because of COVID-19," Orange said. "By then, he's already telling me to F off."

Restaurants and grocery stores across the country have enacted policies to prevent customers from using self-service machines. The measures, implemented in response to the coronavirus outbreak, aim to lower risks of potential virus transmission. The restaurant cites its reasoning for changes to drink refill policies online.

"Given current risks, we took immediate action to help further protect our guests and team members as we evaluate high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces," read a statement that appears under on its website's FAQ page. "We appreciate your patience during this time of heightened caution."

Oklahoma COVID-19
Storefronts in Stillwater, Oklahoma, are pictured on May 5, after officials reversed an order requiring customers to wear face masks in shops due to reports of threats to employees. A man was arrested in Ponca City, Oklahoma, last week after yelling racial slurs at a store manager over the establishment's drink refill policy, enacted in response to COVID-19. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

According to KFOR, Welch refused to leave Casey's General Store despite Orange's request. At that point, the manager called local police and reportedly told the 911 operator: "There's a guy in here calling me n***** and stuff. He's calling me c***, n*****, b****, and flipping me off. His last comment was you should hang just like the rest of the n******."

Police charged Welch with outraging public decency, which is classified a misdemeanor in Oklahoma. Ponca City Police Detective Kevin Jeffries told KFOR the department was able to charge him because the incident took place in public and other store customers witnessed his behavior.

Welch was jailed on Wednesday with bond set at $5,000, and released Friday after posting bail. He is due for an initial appearance in court on July 31.

Newsweek reached out to Casey's General Store and the Ponca City Police Department for comments, but did not receive replies in time for publication.